two tiered justice

I’ll get a picture of it when I’m not antsy to get moving, but there are several passages in this book about two-tiered justice systems created for Natives, in which Natives are disproportionately punished for their retaliations to white violence (i.e. Whites kill a Native –> Natives kill a white in retaliation –> whites massacre 100 Natives as part of legalized retaliatory corporal punishment), and it reminds me so much of what happened at Standing Rock over the last year, and why they took the “non-violent” approach as a defensive tactic.

19-year-old Kevin Thompson didn’t think that he was going to jail the day he pulled his car out of the garage to go to his job in an auto-repair shop. He was pulled over for a speeding ticket and found out that he had not properly renewed his license. When Thompson appeared in traffic court, he was unable to pay the $810 fine and was put on a 30-day probation period to pay his ticket. The judge handed his case over to Judicial Correction Services, Inc., a for-profit corporation that oversees the collection of fines and the probation of people who have committed minor infractions, such as traffic tickets.

Thompson met with his parole officer from JCS weekly and made payments totaling $85, most of which he borrowed because he was unemployed. JCS kept $30 of those payments as a fee, so that amount didn’t count toward the total owed. Eventually, Thompson told his probation officer that he was unable to pay, and she informed him that he would have to appear before a judge to have his parole revoked. He ended up in a jail cell for owing $838 in fines and fees.

What Thompson experienced is called “pay-only” probation. It’s part of the growing private business of what’s euphemistically dubbed “incarceration alternatives,” a lucrative industry that ranges from electronic monitoring to drug treatment and halfway houses…

But for people like Thompson, this industry helps contribute to a cycle of jail, unemployment, and poverty. In late January, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against JCS and DeKalb County, alleging that pay-only probation unfairly targeted people who were too poor to pay at sentencing—and were, therefore, likely to be unable to pay later. “Across the county, the freedom of too many people is resting on their ability to pay,” said Nusrat Choudhury, an ACLU attorney who represents Thompson. “We seek to dismantle that two-tiered system of justice, which disproportionately punishes people of color.”

Like the discussion of politicians and their families drug use is always one of my least favorites because it is either just like judgmental or it’s like #relatable when all it really does for me is point out how drug laws only apply to poor people and mostly poor people of color and there’s an obvious two tiered system of justice going on

If you can't see why Nigel Wright cutting Duffy a $90k cheque is a problem, you’re not a cynic, you’re a nihilist

Some people have swallowed the big fat worm of truthiness that Nigel Wright was trying to “do right by taxpayers” by helping Mike Duffy put back $90,000 he wrongly obtained from government. 

Taxpayers are not in the constitution, and people in government have an obligation to citizens, not taxpayers. They have an obligation to the public and also to the law. 

When someone dishonestly takes money they’re not entitled to, just putting it back doesn’t solve the problem. 

Nigel Wright wasn’t Duffy’s angel investor: he was covering up wrongdoing. 

No one is supposed to be cutting secret $90,000 cheques to MPs, Judges or senators, ever, period. 

Nigel Wright was the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and his payment was supposed to do several things (you can read the details here:

  • Conceal or minimize wrongdoing on the part of a Conservative Senator who wrongly claimed $90,000 in expenses. 
  • Spike an ongoing independent audit into Duffy’s expenses and conceal its findings from the public. That was part of a larger scheme that includes pulling strings with senior officials at Deloitte to stop or change the outcome of the audit. 
  • The repayment was negotiated on the conditions that Duffy mislead the public, which means it was a form of hush money. 
  • Paying a legislator or public official to do something like lie even stay quiet is bribery - (though it could be argued Duffy was pressuring the PMO for payment in exchange for his silence, which is what the trial is about). 
  • At one point, Duffy’s lawyer asked the PMO to guarantee, as part of the payment, that no matter what the findings of the audit, that the PMO would ensure Conservative senators would vote down any effort to refer the matter to further investigation or the RCMP. 
  • They all lied about it. They all knew, Wright’s payment and the deal were widely known in the PMO, and there is no question that the Prime Minister knew, if only, as Nigel Wright put it in an e-mail “in the broadest terms”
  • Finally: if any ordinary schmuck tried to pull what Duffy did, he would get jail time, not a $90k cheque. It is a textbook example of two-tier Justice: one law for the wealthy and powerful and another for everyone else.

Lots of people have said “isn’t this just what politicians do? Help themselves to other people’s money and lie?” That attitude, which takes on a world-weary posture that corruption is endemic to politics is even worse than cynicism: it is nihilism. 

Cynics may cast a jaded eye on the ways in which human frailties fall short of lofty ideals, and they may not be surprised when people are corrupt, or escape any consequences for their corruption: but they can still recognize that people are doing something wrong. 

The attitude that Nigel Wright and the PMO did nothing ethically wrong is an indictment of just how low the bar has been set. Lawyers and “spin doctors” usually are in the loophole-and-envelope-pushing-business: they are paid to find ways to present the truth in a way that while cleverly stretched may be partially told without being a bald-faced lie. 

There appear to have been plenty of flat-out false statements, planned, crafted and delivered with the intention of misleading the public and preventing the truth from getting out: Interfering with an audit in many different ways - 

  • persuading Duffy not to cooperate 
  • contacting senior executives at the auditing company to pressure the auditor himself
  • trying to have the auditor drop the investigation by giving Duffy $90,000 to pay off his bills in the hope the investigation would be dropped
  • considering (though rejecting) a conspiracy to have the Prime Minister’s office order Senators to vote against referring a possibly criminal matter to police. 

That is not just unethical, it is insanely unethical, because at the heart all politics (and social contracts) there is a degree of trust and credibility. It is hard won, and when lost it is much, much harder to get back. A collapse of authority is a collapse of authority. 

Plus, what does it say about their entire approach to governing and to audits? Was the Duffy affair a slip-up, or did the PMO use this approach in other cases?  

There are plenty of partisans who make take pleasure in seeing Harper, after years of dishing it out, getting some of his own back. But this scandal is not just bad for the conservatives, or politicians, it is bad for democracy. It is the sort of thing that just makes honest people lose faith and disengage from public life because they don’t want to be tainted by it. 

This is terrible, because what is required to correct this kind of behaviour and wrestle corruption down is broad engagement across all levels of society. Withdrawing in the hope that you can remain pure only cedes the ground to those who want to use politics only for their own ends. 

If you take a life intentionally or due to neglect, the authorities will be on your ass in a moment’s notice. It is rare, in the 21st century with forensics analysis, that a discovered body remains without a suspect.

This is largely unlike police officers, politicians and even celebrities who, on the other hand, have the luxury of waiting days to make statements. You and I “have the right to remain silent” and anything we say can be used against us in a court of law. The authorities’ right of silence lasts seemingly for days, weeks, even months at a time until all of the appropriate bureaus and agencies have come together to corroborate and manufacture a believable story. 

When a child dies in your custody, you go to jail, get held on bond if you’re lucky, and must appear before a variety of officials and authorities. When a citizen dies in police custody, the officer gets paid time off, the story is sensationalized into a media circus with officials constantly shuffling the ball around, changing their story, and “leaking” (or fabricating) convenient information to support their narrative while withholding (or altering) damning evidence to the contrary.

Authorities consistently go to great lengths to assassinate a victims’ character and/or to justify their excessive use of force. This happens on a regular basis in nearly every state of the union and yet it is considered standard operating procedure! This two-tiered justice absolutely must come to an end.